As humans, we understand the importance of sleep. Many animals have unique sleeping habits. Both land and sea creatures enjoy a good nap now and then. However, in their natural habitats, they don’t have the luxuries of a sleeping mask or soothing sleeping sounds to help them relax. Instead, it can be incredibly challenging to find the right time and the right place to take a break and catch up on their sleep. Wild sea and land animals have to consider many factors that humans do not while sleeping. For instance, they must be sure to find a spot and time to stay away from their predators, ensure they are doing things to keep warm and remember to breathe.
You may have many unanswered questions on how animals find a safe, comfortable place to sleep. Have you ever wondered how marine mammals sleep without drowning? Or how do some animals sleep standing up? These are all valid questions. Both land and sea animals have found creative ways to make their environment work to get the sleep they need to survive and thrive. Some of these animals have come up with unique ways to get their much-needed rest. Some sea and land creatures sleep for years, while others find themselves napping for minutes at a time. Read on to learn about some of the unusual sleeping habits of common sea and land creatures.
22. Horses tend to sleep standing up for easy escape.
Several animals are part of this exclusive crew of standing sleepers. In addition to horses, zebras and elephants also utilize this sleeping method. Standing up helps allow them to stay alert while resting on their feet. Horses can do this by using a stay apparatus. That means their musculoskeletal system has adapted to enable them to lock their limbs in place. While they are in this stay apparatus, it does not require much muscle effort. The only downside to this adaptation is that it only allows for light sleep.
Animals such as horses do need to lie down from time to time. Since they cannot get into a REM stage of sleep while they are standing up, they do allow themselves to lie down from time to time to catch up on that deeper sleep. Horses are able to be easily awakened when they sleep standing up. It allows them to be aware of their surroundings, including if a predator comes near. The horses can sense the threat of danger and react quickly enough to survive. This action is a common sleeping habit for wild horses who face these threats regularly, but domesticated horses also sleep standing up.
21. Bats have many reasons for sleeping upside down.
Bats have many unique sleeping habits. Unlike humans and other animals, bats often find themselves sleeping, hanging upside down. There are many benefits to doing so, but the most important is that they can remain aware of their surroundings, including any approaching predators. By hanging upside down, the second they sense a threat, they are in the perfect position to fly away and escape danger. The second benefit to sleeping upside down is how efficient it is. This sleeping position is easier for them and allows their fragile wings to take a break.
Bats are also unique in that they sleep the majority of the day. Unlike other animals, bats sleep roughly 19 hours a day. These nocturnal creatures are one of the lengthiest daily sleepers. Bats sleep hanging upside down. You might question how they can hang upside down to sleep without falling off their branch. Their incredibly strong talons work to keep them in place, eliminating the fear of falling into harm’s way. These animals can sleep the majority of the day and find themselves awake at night while the rest of the world tends to be sleeping.
20. Sea otters have unique sleeping habits in comparison to other sea or land animals.
For sea otters, their sleep location of choice is the water. When they try to catch up on their sleep, they turn over on their backs and float. There are multiple reasons for this. The first is that by floating on their backs, they can stay away from any land-based predators. Land predators are not likely to enter the water. However, predators are not the only issue that sea otters must navigate while they sleep.
Sea otters also often wrap themselves in seaweed to prevent them from drifting away in the waters’ currents. The chunks of seaweed help slow their travel in the water and allow for them to remain together while they catch up on much-needed rest. This water animal tends to sleep in pairs or larger groups. Sometimes those groups may include up to 100 sea otters. They can hold onto each other. They do this to prevent their loved friends or family from drifting off during the night. People call these large groups of sea otters an otter raft. Sleeping up to 11 hours a day, sea otters have found ways to stay intertwined with one another to not only avoid potential predators but also to prevent them from floating away from the group.
Walruses have fascinating sleeping habits. They can fall asleep at sea or on land and at any time. If the walrus is in the water, they can hold their breath for up to five minutes to catch a quick power nap. However, walruses are also able to nap while in the water for a longer period. At sea, walruses remain buoyant by keeping their heads at the surface. They can do this by filling their pharyngeal pouches, which contain elastic pockets on either side of their esophagus, with air allowing them to catch some quick rest.
The pharyngeal pouches act as a life jacket to keep these animals afloat. Not only are walruses able to sleep in the sea, but they can also catch some sleep while on land. While in the water, walruses can get a lighter sleep. They can enter into a deeper rest for up to 19 hours on land, and they need every one of those hours. Walruses can swim for up to 84 hours continuously.
18. Giraffes only sleep for about 20 minutes at a time to avoid predators.
Most of us could not even imagine only sleeping for five to 30 minutes a day. We could never function in our daily lives if that were the case. However, that is precisely what giraffes do. Being a large, lanky animal, it can be difficult for them to get much rest. Their tall body is a challenge to hide from predators while sleeping, so they resort to an approximate 20-minute power nap. Being an animal in the middle of an open field, this animal can make taking a safe nap near impossible.
Any time giraffes spend sleeping puts them at risk for being attacked by predators. They are widely hunted by predators who are higher in the food chain, including lions and leopards. Thus, so even during times of rest, giraffes need to be on guard at all times. When they do decide to take a rest, giraffes sometimes sit down and curl up with their heads resting on their backs. This position allows them to stand up and run if danger presents itself quickly. Furthermore, people see the position in baby giraffes. Adult giraffes hardly ever sleep more than five minutes at a time. Even during those short five minutes, the giraffes sleep with one eye open.
17. Chimpanzees build beds from whatever they can find.
A chimpanzee certainly knows how to make a cozy, comfortable bed. Chimps typically get at least nine hours of sleep per day. To stay clear of predators while they get their much needed and wanted rest, they build their beds high up inside trees. Sleeping in the trees keeps them out of harm’s way from nighttime predators such as leopards. Their beds need to be extremely durable, with no risk of falling out during the night. Experts think that some early hominids slept in similar ways. The chimpanzees can detect and choose the sturdiest, bed-building material.
Chimpanzees are incredibly intelligent animals and make sure to build their therapeutic beds in only the sturdiest trees. Once nighttime comes, they climb up into their beds. The majority of chimpanzees will sleep high up in the trees. However, there are some instances of chimpanzees sleeping on the ground. The reason behind ground-sleeping is less understood, but male chimpanzees more commonly do it. The male chimpanzees are more likely to sleep beneath their female companions’ trees to keep other males away. They are more likely to do this only in areas that have fewer predators.
16. The albatross has an incredibly active lifestyle that does not leave much time for sleep.
Albatrosses spend most of their day flying and do not take a break to rest. Within the last few years, scientists have determined that this incredible bird can sleep while they are in flight. They have nests in the Antarctic islands before they adventure on a global journey. That has led the birds to develop a technique of dynamic soaring. This flying technique uses differences in air currents and speeds to maintain altitude with very little energy. On average, albatrosses catch 42 minutes of sleep a day.
With all of the traveling and flying they do, being able to multitask and sleep at the same time has allowed them to be incredibly efficient. Albatrosses feed on squid, fish, and krill and can locate their prey by smell. Although the air time limits their exposure to predators, the number of albatrosses has declined in recent years. Introduced species such as rats and cats that attack the eggs, chicks, and nesting adults threaten the species. Their ability to sleep while in flight helps them stay safe while also covering more ground. In fact, people refer to them as one of the most efficient travelers of all vertebrates on the planet.
15. Ducks sleep in ways that are beneficial to keeping each of them safe.
We often see ducks in ponds or lakes in groups. They spend most of their lives together with other ducks and are always acting in ways that keep everyone’s best interest in mind. Sleeping can be an incredibly vulnerable position for many animals. While they are merely trying to catch up on some sleep, it is the perfect time for their predators to act. Ducks work together to ensure they are all safe while sleeping. They tend to sleep in rows and side by side. To add a layer of protection, the ducks on the outside also sleep with one eye open. That is common as they watch for danger while the ducks in the middle can relax with both eyes closed.
Most ducks exhibit flexible sleeping habits and alter their behavior to maximize their energy usage while minimizing their exposure to predators. Although ducks often sleep at night, they don’t restrict their active period to sunlit hours. In warm weather, ducks may be awake and feeding throughout the night. Many species also migrate at night because it is easier and safer to move without a predator’s imminent threat.
14. Dolphins have to think to breathe, even when sleeping consciously.
You may be wondering how one consciously thinks of something while they are also sleeping. The trick is only to shut half of your brain down. While humans may not be able to do this easily, dolphins can sleep with only half of their brain. By only shutting down half of their mind at a time, the dolphins are able to think of their need to breathe consciously. It means that while they are catching up on some rest, they can keep one eye open to watch for any danger.
Threats might be in the form of another dolphin or other species of predators. Not only does having one half of the brain be awake allow them to watch for danger, but it also serves as a signal when to come up for air. After two hours, the sides switch so that both sides of the brain and eyes get their much-needed rest. Another unique sleeping habits that dolphins have involves their ability to enter into times of incredibly deep sleep. Experts call this action logging because, while it’s occurring, the dolphin looks like a log floating on the surface.
13. Meerkat societies are based on hierarchies and their sleep schedule follows that.
Inside of each societal group, there are several family groups. The most dominant pair are the ones that are most likely to produce the most offspring. Meerkats spend their nights in their burrows. These consist of intertwined and complex tunnel systems and sleeping quarters underground. For multiple reasons, the groups of meerkats sleep cuddled up together. The primary reason is to stay warm during the colder months. One of the biggest perks of being the dominant male and female is the advantageous sleeping positions. Typically, the alpha male and female are in the middle of the pile. They then kept the warmest, but they are also the most protected from the danger of predators.
The matriarch is typically buried the deepest in the group so that she gets the best sleep possible. The meerkats on the outside of the pile usually do not reach REM sleep, so they can stay alert and watch out for predators. In the summertime, meerkats may spread out more and even sleep above the ground. Not only do their complex burrows contain specific sleeping chambers, but they also include dedicated rooms that are used solely for breeding purposes.
12. Sperm whales are thought to only sleep with one half of their brain at a time.
As the group approached the soundly sleeping whales, they were stunned to observe that the boat’s sight or noises had startled the pod of sperm whales. Like dolphins, sperm whales sleep only using one half of their brain at a time. The researchers wondered how the whales did not sense the boat coming. It was not until one of the largest animals was gently tapped that the pod woke up and fled quickly. This interaction allowed researchers to uncover that sperm whales slept very differently from their relatives. Sperm whales were discovered to sleep in short, regular periods of full rest near the water’s surface.
During their restful naps, they do not breathe or move. Some of the whales had their noses above water, while others were completely underwater. Experts refer to this behavior as drift-diving. Since whales do not breathe while they sleep, they only fully sleep while drifting for increments of 10 to 15 minutes at a time. It remains a mystery if they also engage in half-brain sleep. However, if this is the only type of sleep they get, it may make them the least sleep-dependent of all mammals.
11. Sharks’ sleep habits are idle, rather than a complete shutdown.
There is a lot about sharks that is unknown, but there are some things that are very well understood. Most shark species have to continue moving to get oxygen through their gills. However, some species, such as the nurse shark, have developed spiracles, which allow them to absorb oxygen while sedentary. The spiracles force oxygen-rich water through the gill system. Since the brain is not needed for a shark to swim, experts thin that the constant moving sharks experience when their brains are less active.
The spinal cord coordinates a shark’s ability to swim rather than its mind. That indicates that the shark can power themselves down without completely shutting down while also moving forward. In 2016, scientists observed a female great white shark swimming closer to the coast as night fell. She faced directly into strong currents with her mouth open so that the water was able to continue passing over her gills easily. During the observation, her swimming also slowed, which caused scientists to classify the behavior as sleeping.
10. Frogs are equipped to hibernate with a natural kind of antifreeze.
Although frogs can be pretty small animals compared to their larger, furrier friends, they can also survive the cold, winter months by hibernating. They have a natural antifreeze, which means that high glucose concentrations under the skin prevent freezing. However, ice crystals may still form in the animal’s body cavities. The natural antifreeze prevents the frog’s vital organs from freezing. During dry spells, the frogs that estivate burrow into the soil and shed several skin layers to form a cocoon. When they do this, they leave only their nose exposed to breathe.
When the rain comes again, they will then shed the cocoon and climb to the surface. Some aquatic frogs can hibernate underwater and rest atop or partially buried in the mud to ensure access to oxygen-rich water. Terrestrial frogs and American toads hibernate by burrowing into the soil below the frost line or hiding in the cracks of logs or rocks. Interestingly, the frog can partially freeze during those winter months and even stop breathing. Its heart can stop beating as well. When spring comes around and brings with it warmer temperatures, the frog will thaw out and return to life with its normal bodily functions.
9. Apes, including orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, all like to curl up and go to sleep, just like humans.
In addition to studying body positions, movements, and patterns, scientists also took a more in-depth look at their brain activity. Like chimpanzees, the rest of the ape family makes their own beds or seeks out high, platform nests away from their predators. That is often by building a sanctuary high in the treetops. By doing this, apes are able to have peace of mind as they catch up on their rest and help them sleep much better than their counterparts. For instance, the baboon that sleeps upright.
Most of us would agree that upright sleeping is not the most comfortable or restful sleep. By creating a peaceful sleeping environment for themselves, apes can get a longer, more restful night of sleep. The difference in sleeping style plays a tremendous role in the efficiency of sleep. Orangutans like to relax, lie down, and sleep on both their front and back. The baboons with their upright sleeping are more of a guarded position. In comparison, the orangutans can get deeper, nonrapid eye movement, sleep. This better sleep could positively impact their cognitive ability. Apes have found an innovative, effective way to sleep both securely and comfortably.
8. Sloths utilize their long claws to hang onto branches while they feast and sleep so other animals can’t reach.
As extremely solitary creatures, sloths rarely interact with one another outside of their breeding season. While that lifestyle may seem incredibly lonely, they have little time to feel lonely given their rigorous sleep schedule. Captive sloths tend to sleep for 15 to 20 hours a day, while wild sloths average around 10 hours a day. They prefer to sleep while curled in a ball in the fork of a tropical tree. Another common sleeping position is to hang by their claws from tree branches. Most sloths occupy several trees during their lifetime, but few may spend their entire lives in the same tree they were born in.
Since they spend most of their time sleeping, they must sleep in a spot that protects them from their predators. High in the tree’s fork is a comfortable place for them to wrap their arms around and drift off to sleep. In addition to sleeping in the tree, the sloth has access to leaves for eating. They may also find themselves snacking on fruit, insects, and small lizards in their trees. It is too infrequent that they come down. These mammals come down from the treetops only to poop, which occurs once a week, searching for a mate or establishing a new territory.
7. Rather than sleeping for many hours at night, penguins tend to take short naps during the day and evening.
Penguins have the unique ability to sleep while standing up or in the water. On occasion, they will also sleep with their bills tucked under their wings to maintain their body heat. Unlike humans, penguins never really fall asleep. Since they are often prey for predators such as leopard seals and sharks, they have to remain alert and on guard to some extent. Therefore, rather than going into a deep slumber like many other animals, they take several short naps throughout the day. On average, each nap lasts a few minutes. To provide additional protection from their predators, experts can find penguins sleeping in groups. The close arrangements offer not only security but also add warmth. People have observed penguins resting on land. However, since they are often at sea for periods of up to nine months, it is assumed that penguins also nap while they are in the ocean.
Similar to humans, penguins appear to enjoy a more restful nap if their stomachs are full. Some penguins, such as Emperor penguins, are frequently found sleeping standing up. While this sleeping position does not sound comfortable to humans, there is a very logical reason. By standing up, the penguin does not come in contact with the cold ground. Only its well-insulated feet are subject to the harsh cold. You can find other penguins such as King penguins sleeping on their stomachs. Like humans, each penguin sleeps in a safe, comfortable, and warm position.
6. In the coldest three to five months of the year, bears go into hibernation.
During hibernation, the bears’ bodies experience drastic changes. For instance, during hibernation, they have a reduced heart rate and blood flow. Their overall body temperature decreases by about 10 degrees, and their metabolism drops to almost half of what it is typically. The decrease in metabolism occurs so that the bear can survive without eating. Besides, the bear doesn’t go to the bathroom and rarely wakes up. For the most part, the only time it will wake up is if something comes into its den. During these three to five months, the bear will also lose up to 25 percent of its weight. While hibernating, they tend to make a den under a rock, in a hollow tree or snuggled under a fallen tree.
Once spring rolls around and the snow melts, their food sources begin to become available again. Bears will then wake up from their months-long hibernation. During the following few months, they hardly sleep at all. It makes sense because they have not eaten in an extremely long time and are hungry. They spend almost the entire time looking for food and getting their body weight back to normal over the next few months. As summer hits, bears begin to split their time more evenly. They nap and relax during the day and spend their nights searching for food. When fall begins, bears see it as a signal to start stocking up on food before winter begins and the cycle continues.
5. On average, goats get around five hours of sleep each night and often take naps throughout the day.
Many people have questioned if goats sleep because they do not see them sleeping. They are just very tricky when it comes to showing it. Goats tend to find a blind spot where it is hard for humans to spot them and choose times during the day and night, where there are no other animals present. The place they choose is difficult to see but is usually a sheltered spot they find comfortable sleeping. Besides, they tend to sleep lightly. They do not undergo heavy sleep. They are always on high alert, and any small noise or light appearing as a threat wakes them up immediately.
Although many people have thought that goats sleep standing up, that is not true. Goats lay down on the ground with their bodies in an upright position. Sleeping in this position is much easier and quicker for them to get up if they need to get away from a threat, especially other wild animals. They also prefer to sleep with other companions. Having a companion helps keep the goats warm and prevents them from getting lonely and depressed. Domesticated goats are slightly different. They tend to sleep longer than wild goats because of the change in their lifestyle and environment. Domestic goats can be more comfortable with other farm animals and their caretakers, so they are not bothered or startled by sounds created or produced near them.
4. Spiders are known to have circadian rhythms or daily periods of activity and rest.
In colder climates, spiders can hibernate. It allows them to live and survive in a kind of suspended state until the temperatures rise. While they are inactive, the spiders’ metabolism slows down. You can sort of tell whether spiders are sleeping or in hibernation by observing their body language. During hibernation, spiders tuck in their legs, and their metabolic rates slow to help them survive. Their metabolic rate slowing allows them not to have to burn as many calories. They can survive without eating and living in a sleeplike state until the cold weather ends.
The same tucked-in position also indicates a sleeping spider. However, if you see a spider laying on its back or in an awkward position with legs tucked, then it may not be alive. Spiders are pretty savvy about taking care of their odds for survival. They tend to hunt, nest, and sleep out of harm’s way. When spiders go into hibernation, they are most likely to be found in their webs. People might find them in protected places such as cracks in the walls. Triggers besides circadian rhythms and cold temperatures can cause spiders to become unconscious. For instance, female funnel-web spiders can lose consciousness during mating in response to males’ pheromones.
3. Cows spend over half of their lives lying down – but not always sleeping.
While cows may doze off for a few minutes at a time while standing up, they typically lie down to sleep or rest. They usually lean forward on their chest and forelimbs or lie entirely on their sides. Just as with any other animals, cows need their sleep to stay healthy. It is a common misconception that cows sleep standing up. Cows lie down for up to 14 hours per day and stand up every few hours to stretch, only to lie back down again. While they are lying down, the cow’s hooves get a rest from standing and also have a chance to dry off from any moisture they have encountered while wandering.
Besides, while lying down, cows can properly digest their food. The blood circulation also increases throughout a cow’s udders to help with the milk production while in a resting position. Although they spend up to 14 hours a day lying down, only a small fraction of that time is sleeping. They spend around four hours each day sleeping. They don’t usually sleep for four hours straight, but instead, they sleep for shorter periods. Cows take frequent naps throughout the day and night that typically last between one and five minutes at a time.
2. Some snails, such as desert snails, estivate while others hibernate.
We are all pretty familiar with hibernation when some animals conserve their energy by lowering their metabolism and ‘sleeping’ through the cold months. Some small species hibernate, but they also estivate. That is essentially the summer version of hibernation, in which animals enter a prolonged dormant state. Animals do this to protect themselves from the dryness and dangerously high temperatures. Snails can estivate for years. One instance of this was when a British museum worker found an Egyptian snail’s shell and assumed it was empty.
She went on to attach the shell to an identification card. Four years later, someone noticed there were traces of slime on the card. They put the shell into the water, and when the body came off the card, the workers were left stunned. As the cover came off, an alive, awake snail crawled out. The snail was estivating the entire time. Snails in colder climates can hibernate, while snails in hotter climates estivate during the summer months. Snails can decide to go into a deep sleep to avoid adverse weather conditions and periods when food is scarce. When snails go into either hibernation or estivation, they seal themselves safely inside their shells with a mucus layer that forms a hard cover over the opening.
With averaging just two hours of sleep a night, wild elephants are the lightest-known sleepers of any mammal. They might have little competition for this title in the giraffe. Wild elephants have more dangers and pressure to find food; wild animals tend to sleep less. The majority of the time, elephants will sleep standing up. Occasionally they would lie down when they require rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM, the muscles usually relax, making it impossible to remain standing. However, this amount is so small that it doesn’t happen often.
Wild elephants are not too picky about where they sleep, but they are also on high alert when a predator presents itself. Surprisingly, their physical activity level during the day doesn’t directly impact how long they doze off. Bigger animals generally tend to sleep less, likely because they have to spend much time eating. Captive elephants tend to sleep a little longer, averaging three to seven hours a day. However, they do not have to worry about the threat of predators or where their next meal will come from. Researchers have uncovered that while elephants slept for an average of two hours a day, it was not consecutively. Instead, it was in four to five short bursts and occurred primarily between the nighttime hours. Each time the elephants slept in different places each night.
Where do we Find this Stuff? Here are Our Sources: